From Rockette to Kean professor: The career of Corinne Tighe

By Erica Weiss

One look at Kean University professor Corinne Tighe is enough to tell that she is a dancer. Sitting in a hip flexor stretch on the floor in one of Kean’s stifling hot dance studios on a sunny April morning, everything from her lean, 5’7” frame to her long, curly, brown hair she kept up in a neat ponytail, to the black scarf with the white cartoon ballerinas she wore, gave her away as a woman with a passion for dance.

Inspired to dance by her older sister who took classes before her, Tighe started dancing at Tina Marie’s Dance Studio, which used to be located in North Plainfield, N.J., at a very young age. She fell in love with the art form and stuck with it into her college years, where she began to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance at Towson University in Towson, Md. During her freshman year at Towson, she still commuted into New York City to take classes and audition for jobs.

“The college I was in was too far away from where all the opportunities were,” Tighe said, alternating between typing grades into her MacBook and typing on her iPhone to reschedule a personal fitness client. Therefore, she continued, her plans for her sophomore year in college included a transfer to Rutgers University, which was much closer to New York City and the major dance companies, such as the selective Radio City Rockettes dance troupe.

Tighe first attempted to land a part with the Rockettes back in 2001 when she was 17. Although her first Rockette audition was not met with a job offer, she did not let that deter her and she tried again the following year when she turned 18. However, in 2002, just as Tighe was about to transfer to Rutgers University to continue her dance education, she got a call from the Rockettes offering her a role in the Branson, Mo. branch of the company. In the matter of one week, she withdrew from Rutgers, moved to her new job location in Branson, and found herself an apartment in the town.

“I basically became an adult in two months,” Tighe said, laughing in retrospect, “I had to start buying all my own groceries and everything!” Even with all of the changes in her life in such a short time, she only remembers ever being stressed when the work and rehearsal process started on the show she had to learn.

“Once you’re in the professional world, your life changes for sure,” she noted, unzipping her black warm­up jacket a little more as a blast of heat entered the studio through the open windows.

Despite the hardships of being a Rockette, which she comments were her jam­packed schedule and all of the physical demands of dancing many hours each day, Tighe still found the time to pursue her other passions. Once she was transferred into the Rockette New York City division, she was able to earn a degree in business, starting with an associate’s degree at a community college, and eventually a bachelor’s degree at (believe it or not) Kean University. She also began to get certified for teaching a number of different fitness activities, including Pilates, group fitness, yoga, and CPR. She also began teaching dance at the Center for Dance Education (CDE) in Clark, N.J. to young children from all over the Union County area.

“I really know how to make use of my time, and I always try to avoid wasting time as much as possible,” Tighe commented as she continued to multitask on her grading and rescheduling.

Tighe retired from the Rockettes, after a 10­year career with them, in 2013. The spring semester of that year was when she began her job as a Kean professor. Her official title is adjunct professor for the Department of Theatre’s dance minor. This minor includes high at a community college, and eventually a bachelor’s degree at (believe it or not) Kean University. She also began to get certified for teaching a number of different fitness activities, including Pilates, group fitness, yoga, and CPR. She also began teaching dance at the Center for Dance Education (CDE) in Clark, N.J. to young children from all over the Union County area.

“I really know how to make use of my time, and I always try to avoid wasting time as much as possible,” Tighe commented as she continued to multitask on her grading and rescheduling.

Tighe retired from the Rockettes, after a 10­year career with them, in 2013. The spring semester of that year was when she began her job as a Kean professor. Her official title is adjunct professor for the

Department of Theatre’s dance minor. This minor includes high school students from the Union County Academy for Performing Arts program, under the direction of Michele Mossay.

She credits her decision of returning to Kean to instruct to the passion for teaching that she found through her work at CDE. Her passion for teaching is very clear in the eyes of the students she teaches, both at Kean and CDE.

“Corinne has always been one of my favorite teachers,” said Megan Dougherty, a senior at the Union County Academy for Performing Arts, currently taking Tighe’s Ballet Technique and Dance Styles classes here at Kean, as well as her jazz class at CDE. “She does not accept laziness and she always pushes me to do my best, but I never feel like I’m getting yelled at…she also makes an effort to know everyone in class and gives a lot of individual feedback.”

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